News of OMearas Demise Seems Premature
But I dont believe either could have been as unexpected as Mark OMearas week in Dubai. He visited an American aircraft carrier with Tiger Woods, then teed it up against Woods, world No. 3 Ernie Els, and a host of the European Tours finest practitioners of the game. Forget that he was No. 201 in the world on Thursday. Forget that most people understood his Dubai visit was just to accompany Tiger. Forget that he was 143rd on the PGA Tour last year and had missed his last two cuts this year
OMeara has done this several times before, you know ' playing lousy for weeks, even years on end before suddenly getting serious about the game. The first was 20 years ago after he had finished 76th on the PGA Tours money list in 1983. The following year, 1984, he shot up to second.
He puttered along in the tours upper echelons for 10 years when in 1994, he slid all the way down to 86th. He then righted the ship for five years until 2000, when he went spiraling down to 112th. He was entering his early 40s, and when he didnt apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding the last four years, it was widely assumed that he was finished.
The low point, OMeara conceded, was at the 84 Lumber tournament last year. I hit the ball probably the best for two days I've hit it at any time in my career, and I shot 4 under - and I missed the cut, he said. I putted as badly as a human being could putt with no confidence. I was trying everything. I was closing my eyes. I was watching my putter go back, just trying to take your mind and the hit out of the stroke.
But when you're doing all of those things, you're fighting a losing battle.
Some speculated that he would quit to become Tigers coach. Others said he would become a TV analyst.
Unfortunately, the competitive nature one has inside themselves to get to that level, it's hard to just all of a sudden walk away, OMeara said. I felt like I could still play. What no one figured was that he could bolt into the winners circle again.
His old bread-and-butter, though, had gone AWOL the last few years. Long regarded as one of the tours most masterful putters through most of his career, he had begun missing with regularity. He clanked down to 143rd last season. He was 47 years old now, and the only question was how ' and when - the end would finally come.
The putting malaise was a serious development. It had happened in the latter years to lots of great golfers ' Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer, Tom Kite now it was happening to OMeara.
OMeara, though, just might prove to be the exception. In the offseason, he ran into his old instructor, Hank Haney, and Haney had some rather strong words. 'You need a new grip,' Hany said, and he wasn't talking about the way he held the driver. He meant the putter.
So OMeara relented and tried it. And so far, it has re-invented the OMeara of old.
He had gone over the cliff with the roller over the last five years, steadily going down: from 45th in 1999 to 112th on 2000, to 116th, back up to 97th, then last year falling out of sight at 140th. But with this new grip ' he calls it The Saw ' he stands 18th on the U.S. putting rankings, and thats not even counting his win at Dubai.
I would explain it, but I have to confess I havent seen the grip and I dont understand OMearas verbal description. But The Saw has had a dramatic impact on his game. And even though he has had nagging back problems the last month, OMeara looks like he can win again in his late 40s.
If you feel like you can make the putts, it just frees up the rest of your game, OMeara said.
Granted, I'm more confident now, certainly, because I'm starting to see some results. Confidence comes from results.
Last month, putting guru Scotty Cameron had a look at Marks unconventional Saw grip. He said it's the best he's seen me stroke the ball in five or six years, OMeara said proudly.
Well, maybe this is another ageless wonder story that has become so prevalent in golf the last couple of years. After all, Woods is the only player under 30 who has won this year. And OMeara beat Woods ' and Els ' in his march through the Dubai field last week.
Do you have putting woes, watching the ball avoid the cup like it has a severe case of halitosis? Better listen to Mark OMeara.
Any of you guys or gals that have a little yip in the stroke and may not want to admit this, that's cool, I'm down with that, he said.
But you might want to try this. Trust me, it works.
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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."